“Jo-sie! Jo-sie!” Pretty much the entire bar is chanting the pixieish blonde’s name as a bartender pours a shot of bitter Italian liqueur down the side of a mint-chocolate-chip ice-cream sandwich and into her mouth. Cheers break out, iPhone shots are snapped, the ice-cream luge ($8) has been conquered, and it’s only 6:30 on a Monday.
Josie and her crew have the right idea at Pop’s SeaBar in Adams Morgan. The Jersey Shore-inspired urban beach shack—complete with beer cans in Koozies and a 2 am weekend closing time—offers some pretty tasty fare, but it works best as a stop for happy hour ($1 oysters!) or a late-night snack.
The paper-placemat menu is unapologetically straightforward and short—the same plastic cup of spicy aïoli comes with every order of fried stuff, and there are no cheffy riffs or dishes in quotation marks. That’s all the more surprising given that Pop’s is run by Justin Abad and John Manolatos, who also own the more ambitious Modern American restaurant Cashion’s Eat Place next door. It’s refreshing, too—a good, basic basket of fried calamari ($9.50) or popcorn chicken ($8.99) can be oddly hard to find.
Still, I’ll credit Manolatos for the juicy, deep-red tomato slice—at any true boardwalk bar, it would have been mealy and pink—that comes atop a sandwich of nicely fried oysters ($11.50). And for the fact that the peel-and-eat shrimp ($12.99) have been thoughtfully deveined. Frozen, Old Bay-spiced fries come gratis with most dishes, but it’s worth getting the terrific creamy red-cabbage slaw ($4).
You can veer away from the fried dishes with a cup of cilantro-heavy ceviche ($9.99), but your best bet is probably just to have another cocktail. A deviled filet of blue catfish ($13.50) was drenched in butter, and the diner-style cheeseburger ($8.99) was on the dry side.
The drinks could be candy-sweet if not for the skilled bartenders. I’d go back for the smooth-drinking Hup Hup Orange Crush ($8), made with fresh OJ, vodka, aquavit, and orange liqueur or the slushie-like Jungle Bird ($10), with aged rum and pineapple. Still, if sweet’s your thing, there’s always that ice-cream luge.
This article appears in the November 2014 issue of Washingtonian.